On the eve of another “are we really doing this again?” Republican debates, the quants over at FiveThirtyEight are debating whether they would
bang-or-pass buy-sell-or-hold the Republican candidates. Possibly the most revealing part of this discussion relates to Nate Silver’s assessment of Marco Rubio:
natesilver: I’m buying at 38.6 percent, although I don’t think I’m getting a great bargain.
micah: You’re in the tank for Rubio.
natesilver: If I know you guys as well as I think I do, you’re going to be selling or holding a lot of the other candidates. Unless you’re really bullish on Jeb Bush or Trump or Ben Carson, it’s hard to get the numbers to add up to 100 percent unless you have Rubio in the 40 percent range or above. But more importantly, we have seen some signs of progress for Rubio. He’s one of only two Republicans to have received any endorsements in the past few weeks. He’s lined up some big super PAC backers. His favorability ratings remain strong.
Micah Cohen is, I think, joking. As you can see Weasel Silver’s main argument is mathematics — the odds have to add up to 100 percent, and right now Rubio has the best claim to a bigger share of the probability pie.
In short: somebody has to win. Even if all of those somebodies are just appalling to sober analysts.
(Incidentally, I think that Silver is putting too much faith in the GOP establishment and am willing to buy Trump at 18.7 percent, if only because one does not become a multi-billionaire without knowing how to manipulate a few rubes).
Jim Newell at Slate, meanwhile, hits the panic button over Democratic voter enthusiasm:
A new survey conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner demonstrates the enthusiasm gap. It polls likely voters across four Senate battleground states—Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin—of which three are also critical presidential battlegrounds. (Wisconsin isn’t a state that Democrats can take for granted, either.) Though GQR finds that demographic changes aid Democrats in these states, it does not find a whole lot of enthusiasm among the new national Democratic coalition of minorities, young people, and unmarried women.
As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, one question asks voters how interested they are in the November 2016 election on a 1 to 10 scale. Among those who answered 10, the leading demographic affiliations are: seniors, overall “non-RAE” (the Rising American Electorate, meaning unmarried women, young people, and minorities), conservatives, Republicans, and white non-college men. These are, as Sen. Ted Cruz would describe them, “rock-ribbed conservative” demographics. The demographic groups with the fewest “extremely interested” members are overall “RAE,” millennials, and at the very bottom, white millennials, offering further proof that white millennials are the worst people ever created.
You need to have your own people be excited—and not just excited about defeating the opposition, which seems to be what Wasserman Schultz plows most of her resources into doing. Your party’s voters have to be excited about your party’s candidate. And if that candidate’s worth getting excited about, there shouldn’t be any hesitancy about exposing her to the public as much as possible, instead of hiding her few mass public appearances behind weekend football games.
Newell, as you can see, asserts that the enthusiasm gap has to do with what might politely be described as the Clinton coronation. I agree – but only up to a point.
I don’t the think the problem for the Democrats right now is so much that debates are getting shoved off to undesirable time slots. The big problem is that Democrats pretty much know that Hillary Clinton is going to win in the end, and that’s frankly a bit of a buzz-kill. Not because Hillary is a bad person or a bad candidate; but because certainty is rarely very exciting or interesting.
Right now, Betfair.com (the same site that the Gang of FiveThirtyEight are discussing) puts Hillary’s odds of winning at 1.12:1, which translates to an implied probability of about 89.2 percent. That may even be a slight underestimate (and I say this as a Bernie Sanders supporter and donor). To be sure, Hillary is only barely cracking 50 percent support in national polls, and Bernie Sanders is still in the same time zone, garnering around 30 percent. (The latest RCP average has it at 54.6 for Clinton, 32.5 for Sanders). But the actual poll numbers obscure the extent to which Hillary is winning the “invisible primary.”
(Yes, I remember 2008 – I was an Obama Precinct Captain on the day that Obama won the Texas caucus and Hillary won the Texas primary. But in 2008, Obama had a respectable share of endorsements… whereas this time around, Hillary Clinton is pitching a virtual shutout — she’s got 407 endorsements “points” versus only 2 for Bernie Sanders, per 538).
So anyway, the Democrats know who their candidate is going to be, warts and all. How does this compare to the Republicans? Those guys have no clue who their nominee is going to be, and many of the candidates are empty vessels for their wildest right-wing fantasies. Ben Carson is only the latest in a long string of Con-Dumpsters who have utterly no chance of actually winning, but who manages to win millions of fans by touching them in all of their socially-reactionary erogenous zones.
There are other reasons, by the way, why the GOP might be polling better enthusiasm right now. The most obvious is the surge-and-decline theory. And sure, perhaps better time slots would help pump up Dems a little bit. There is some evidence that competitive primaries are good for parties.
But, I expect that as we get into primary season early next year – and one of the Republican rogues actually threatens to win the nomination – that the partisan enthusiasm gap will narrow significantly.
As noted political philosopher and musician Sebastian the Crab once said, “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.” Wiser words have never been spoken by a crustacean.
* This is an in-joke that you are not necessarily intended to understand. I actually have a lot of respect for Nate Silver.